Small business owner stands behind a wooden counter after improving small business marketing during COVID-19.

3 Steps to Revising Your Marketing Strategy for COVID-19


COVID-19 impacts small businesses around the world. To help your brand recover from loss and adjust, here are 3 ways to improve your marketing strategy.

You likely already tossed your 2020 marketing plan out the window—with good reason. Because 2020 has proven to be a year unlike any other, the same marketing techniques that worked in the past may not be effective now. Not only is your budget likely lower, but both your operating model and customers' needs are almost definitely different than when you carefully crafted your plan for this year.

Businesses have a unique opportunity amid the crisis to create customer loyalty by meeting their changing needs and providing trusted information. However, many companies are finding that the traditional channels, such as advertisements, are less feasible this year. Influence Marketing Hub reports that 69% of brands expect to spend less on ads in 2020.

To weather this challenging economic climate, you must start by carefully reviewing your overall marketing efforts and create a new plan for this unique circumstance. Here the three steps to create a new marketing strategy for the rest of 2020 and beyond: 

1. Conduct a COVID Audit of Current Marketing Efforts

Your current campaigns and projects are likely a mash-up of various initiatives launched on the fly. The world changed overnight, and your team quickly created new plans in response. But now that the world has settled into a somewhat new normal state, it’s time to take stock of your marketing and determine if you are hitting the mark for your customers' current needs.

Because your company likely has a lot of marketing created by different people, especially during the hectic weeks after the crisis hit, you need to make sure you review all types of marketing. Here are four types of marketing to include in your review:

  • Ecommerce: Review the text on your online store—headlines, intro, tagline. Look to see if the order of the products should be changed based on higher or lower demand for specific products due to the pandemic. Pay attention to product photos, as well, to make sure that they reflect the current reality—people wearing masks in public, not in large crowds or indoor settings. For example, a title photo for laptops should not display a conference room with unmasked employees collaborating.
  • Newsletters: Look at all current newsletters—both email and mailed—to determine the audience, topic and messaging. Note if any mailings are currently going to office buildings that may still be closed.
  • Advertising: Make a list of all current advertisements, print and radio ads. Note the products included, as well as the messaging, to be sure it still makes sense in the current climate.
  • Social media: Note what platforms your company is active on and the audience for each account. Take stock of the followers and level of engagement on each channel. Look to see if the engagement has increased or decreased since the pandemic.

2. Determine Changes to Existing Marketing Efforts

After reviewing all of your materials, channels and campaigns, ask the following questions about each of your current efforts. 

  • Does it align with the new business model? Look carefully at the words and images to make sure that they reflect current social distancing guidelines. For example, you should replace photos of people in crowded places and use pictures of people wearing masks when appropriate. Additionally, make sure that the services advertised are currently offered, such as personal shopping services and book clubs, which may now be virtual.
  • Is the delivery method most effective? Everyone's daily habits have changed, so campaigns that were previously effective, such as advertisements in public transportation or airports, are likely getting no traction. However, people are increasingly turning to social media, making this an even stronger platform than before.
  • Does it match current customer sentiment? Because most of our stress level is higher, messaging is even more important than ever. The right message will resonate even stronger than during typical times, but a tone-deaf or insensitive message could lose customers or even damage brand reputation. Have a diverse team review your messaging to make sure a wide range of perspectives are considered
  • What is the best allocation of your budget? With the shutdowns and people spending less in some areas, your marketing budget may be lower than expected. This means you need to think carefully about which messages and delivery methods have the most impact.
  • Should you increase the frequency of any current efforts? Review current engagement with regular activities, such as social media and newsletters. If a newsletter is getting double the opens and increased leads right now, then you may want to move to bi-weekly instead of monthly. Additionally, if customers are engaging more on a specific social media channel, then the right move may be posting there more often.

Based on your answers, determine changes that need to be made to your current marketing efforts. You may decide to end specific campaigns, such as a print ad campaign. Other issues may simply require a change, such as switching out the profile picture on your business Facebook page to one more reflective of today’s environment. Create a plan with a timeline and assign responsible team members to ensure that all changes get completed and signed off.

3. Develop New Marketing Efforts

After updating your current campaigns, the next step involves brainstorming new campaigns and efforts. Start by asking your team and current customers about any current customer needs and challenges that are not being met by your existing efforts. Think about any changes to your operational model due to social distancing. Also, consider any new campaigns or marketing revolving around new contactless services or delivery options. 

Some of the following might help inspire new ideas:

  • Online meetups/seminars to provide connection
  • Interactive social media campaigns
  • E-books/guides to help with new challenges related to your industry
  • Videos and photos providing visual proof/reassurance of safety protocols 

Moving Forward with Marketing During the Pandemic

Because social distancing requirements and customer sentiments are likely to be fluid for the near future, your marketing efforts should be written in pencil. By continually revisiting your efforts and making changes based on feedback, you can ensure that you are producing marketing that helps your customers navigate their challenges and build trust with your brand.

You are not alone as you navigate through doing business during the pandemic. Learn how Fifth Third Bank can help your business thrive and grow at our COVID-19 Business Support Center.

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